US World War II ship sunk in famous battle found by explorers, deepest shipwreck ever discovered

The USS Samuel B. Roberts remains were found 22,621 feet, making it the deepest shipwreck ever found

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The investor and private explorer Victor Vescovo and his crew have found what experts believe to be the deepest shipwreck ever discovered - the remains of the USS Samuel B. Roberts, which was destroyed in a famous battle in World War II in the Philippines.

On this Wednesday, June 22, 2022, image provided by Caladan Oceanic, the aft gun mount of the USS Samuel B. Roberts can be seen underwater off the Philippines in the Western Pacific Ocean.

On this Wednesday, June 22, 2022, image provided by Caladan Oceanic, the aft gun mount of the USS Samuel B. Roberts can be seen underwater off the Philippines in the Western Pacific Ocean. (Caladan Oceanic via AP)

On June 22, Vescovo's team and U.K.-bases EYOS Expeditions found the wreck of USS Samuel B. Roberts at a depth of 22,621 feet (6,985 meters), making it the deepest shipwreck ever discovered. Vescovo's team identified the ship broken into two pieces on a slope. 

The USS Samuel B. Roberts, popularly known as the "Sammy B," was destroyed by the far more superior Japanese warship during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest sea battle of World War II. 

That puts it 426 meters (1,400 feet) deeper than the USS Johnston, the previous deepest wreck discovered last year in the Philippine Sea also by Vescovo, the founder of Dallas-based Caladan Oceanic Expeditions. 

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"It was an extraordinary honor to locate this incredibly famous ship, and by doing so have the chance to retell her story of heroism and duty to those who may not know of the ship and her crew’s sacrifice," Vescovo, a former Navy commander, said in a statement.

In late October 1944, the Sammy B. was operating off Samar Island in the Philippine Sea. She was serving as part of a task force of six escort carriers, which were supporting and covering American ships in Leyte Gulf. On the morning of October 25, a 23-ship force of the Japanese Imperial Navy appeared on the horizon. 

The American ships (including the Roberts) made a valiant last stand against the enemy. They took heavy losses but successfully fended off the attack, inflicting serious damage on the Japanese force. Of a 224-man crew, 89 died and 120 were saved, including the captain, Lt. Cmdr. Robert W. Copeland. It would be Japan's last major naval engagement of the war.

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The Imperial Japanese Navy suffered its biggest loss of ships and failed to dislodge the U.S. forces from Leyte, which they invaded earlier as part of the liberation of the Philippines.

In this Wednesday, June 22, 2022, image provided by Caladan Oceanic, the pilot house section of the USS Samuel B. Roberts can be seen underwater off the Philippines in the Western Pacific Ocean.

In this Wednesday, June 22, 2022, image provided by Caladan Oceanic, the pilot house section of the USS Samuel B. Roberts can be seen underwater off the Philippines in the Western Pacific Ocean. (Caladan Oceanic via AP)

According to Samuel J. Cox, a retired admiral and naval historian, Copeland stated there was "no higher honor" then to have led the men who displayed such incredible courage going into battle against overwhelming odds, from which survival could not be expected.

"This site is a hallowed war grave, and serves to remind all Americans of the great cost born by previous generations for the freedom we take for granted today," Cox said in a statement.

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The explorers said that up until the discovery, the historical records of where the wreck lay were not very accurate. The search involved the use of the deepest side-scan sonar ever installed and operated on a submersible, well beyond the standard commercial limitations of 6,000 meters (19,685 feet), EYOS said.

The Associate Press contributed to this report.